Arctic® Apples: A Bite Out Of The Science

Arctic® Apples: A Bite Out Of The Science
  • Dr. Taylor Wallace
  • July 29, 2019

Arctic® apples are genetically engineered to prevent them from browning.  Apples naturally contain antioxidants known as polyphenols that can react with oxygen in the air to cause browning.  This reaction occurs in the presence of an enzyme called polyphenol oxidase, which brings the polyphenols and oxygen together quickly and in just the right way. Scientists term this reaction as “enzymatic browning.” Some varieties of apples have more polyphenol oxidase and therefore turn brown more quickly than others.

How were apple varieties developed before genetic engineering?

Apple varieties are grown using an old practice called “grafting.”  After a tree produces a desirable apple, cutting from that original tree are grafted, or fused onto the already-established roots of a donor tree, called rootstock.  Ever notice bumps or nodules at the base of an apple tree?  The cuttings then grow into a full-sized tree that contains the exact same genetic material as the original tree.  Farmers have been cultivating apple trees for preferred genes hundreds of years before genetic engineering (i.e., GMOs) even existed (Note: Arctic® apples are also grafted).

Ok awesome science, but are these Arctic® apples really safe and healthy for my family?

The answer is, absolutely! The fruit has the same nutritional content as a non-genetically modified apple.  Nothing has changed minus the silencing of browning.  Because Artic® apples don’t experience the browning reaction, nutrients like vitamin C and antioxidant polyphenols are sparred from degradation after slicing.  The apples are completely safe for human consumption, which is why regulatory agencies in the United States and Canada approved them for human consumption after over a decade of research.

Are Arctic® apples a solution to food waste?

Browning contributes to food waste, especially for fruits and vegetables.  Nearly half of the produce that’s grown in the United States is thrown away due to issues like browning and bruising, among others.  Arctic® apples are innovative not only as a more convenient more “stable” snack, but they may also substantially help reduce unnecessary food waste.

So, what’s next for the Arctic® apple?

It takes 4-years for new apple trees to grow and bear fruit, so it will take some time for Arctic® apples to be available in supermarkets throughout the U.S.  Arctic® Goldens were the first available in bags of pre-sliced apples in select U.S. cities, followed by  Arctic® Grannys. Arctic® Fuji apples have received approval for sale and are now being grown at their Orchards in Washington state.

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